My window to the world

Internet at Hilton Brisbane Hotel

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 26-Feb-2007 23:37

You would think a hotel charging AU$280/night would be able to offer decent Internet access. Think again. The Hilton here in Brisbane offers appaling Internet service. I am lucky if half of the images on a web page load at all - if the domain name resolution doesn't fail first.



Telecom New Zealand pathetic

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Feb-2007 10:31

Wow... Lance Wiggs says a lot about the current state of telecommunications in New Zealand:

Telecom is to blame, although I do not know whether to point the finger at their lawyers for foot-dragging, their management for under investing, marketing department for over-promising (and over-spending), management for worrying about government regulation rather than customers, senior technical staff for general incompetence, management for not listening to senior technical staff/contractors or contractor Alcatel for under performing.


What do you think?








Update your devices and PCs for the new U.S. and Canada DST

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Feb-2007 10:00

This has been talked about very lightly, and I am worried about it. The U.S. Congress has changed the dates for Daylight Saving Time (DST) in the United States starting in 2007. Canada has adopted similar DST dates.

Microsoft has released an update for Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft Windows-based PCs and Windows Mobile devices. I am aware Palm has also released an update for their Palm OS-based devices. Apple has also released some information on how to update Mac OS PCs.

I am not sure what's going on with Nokia and Sony Ericsson - or with any other platform for that matter. I found a post through Darla Mack's blog of a Nokia Time Zone updater. Nokia update information comes with just a small comment, without any information of why, when, who is going to be affected. Not helpful at all.

This is my comment on Darla's blog:

Interesting this is not being publicised a lot by Nokia, since the DST changes affect US and Canada, and starts in 2007. In summary if the devices are not updated, any appointments created before the DST period but falling within the new DST dates will be shifted by one hour when the DST comes into effect. Similarly, appointments created during the new DST period but falling outside the DST period will be shifted an hour when the DST ends.

This will have huge effects on businesses, travel, life as we know it but people are not really moving to update their devices.

Microsoft and Palm have released updated software for their mobile devices and Microsoft released automatic updates for Microsoft Exchange. I haven't heard anything from Nokia or Sony Ericsson. Not a word on how this affects their devices, or what to do to prevent problems.


Are we clear now on how important is this update?


UPDATE: more information and links to downloads for Windows Mobile updates are here.




Linkbait: Digg

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 24-Feb-2007 09:16

I don't regularly visit Digg, the social news site where users vote on stories brought by other users. But I have their RSS feed in my reader.

One of the reasons why I don't regularly visit the site is just because of those spammers, or linkbait tactics usage. Because of the extreme traffic generated by highly voted stories, bloggers really want their "15 minutes of fame". And so do some spammers.

For example, I've noticed that anything with the words "Apple", "Steve Jobs", "Kevin Rose" or "Digg" will get votes. People seem to like to vote with the others, and Digg seems to be the highest ranked term. Diggers digg Digg. Anything with "Digg" on the headline or summary is digg material - and highly voted.

Just for some examples I have selected a few Digg pages so you can check how these headlines or summary texts have nothing to do with Digg itself, but are more like URL drops:

Family-Friendly Social Networking with Famster - Podcast
Recently, the Wall Street Journal reported on the growing influence of Web sites like Digg. Last summer a popular Digg contributor commented favorably on a family-friendly social networking site, Famster.com, thereby causing traffic to skyrocket at the site. Great podcast showing Famster features hosted by Phil Leigh featuring their executives.


Digg gives noisy debunkers the tools to bury meaningful reporting
There is no doubt that the explosion of the social content website DIGG.com is helping us reach an audience that would not normally read our material here at Infowars and Prisonplanet. However, it is also true that Digg provides debunkers a quick and easy way to bury our content should they choose to cling to their security blanket...


Digg is $42.9 million, whats the best you can find?
Some friends and I were having a competition to see who can get the most expensive domain to come up (I know this is an old article) but I was wondering what you could come up with, the algorithm has been changed since I last saw it...


What about some lovely spam... The link goes to a "Love Calculator", but look at the description:


Australian? Charge any mobile in Australia $6.60 with website hack
OK this has been done to my friends and I think the best way to get it shut down is to publicize it. I know no better place than Digg so .. go to the site I linked. Click through and enter your friend's mobile. Click OK, it will go to a confirmation page. View page source and find txtPin.value != 'NUMBER HERE') .. enter that number, click OK. Done.


This is a "iPhone review", where the author has not come close to any iPhone - mainly because there's nothing to review yet. Really deep stuff:

Iphone and TV Online
Review of IPhone and expanded news on TV shows from a previous Digg post. "[O well,] Apple Iphone is stil great, cause of all its features and well its a new toy about to hit our local streets all over the World, probably in your neighbourhood."


Get my point? Digg is a great way to share things, but it's becoming infested with spam, spam, spam. And unrelated stories.

I like this post about diggers digging digg however. Yes, you can Digg that post on Digg and help the self-perpetuating Digging keep going.




Novatel Merlin card and Windows Vista

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 23-Feb-2007 11:15

A friend commented on my previous post about the Sierra Wireless Aircard 595 CDMA EVDO card working on Windows Vista. At the end of the post I bash Novatel and their lack of 64 bit drivers for their Merlin XU870 HSDPA card.

He agreed to let me post his comments publicly:

Until Vista 64 bit becomes the mainstream OS for most people, I don't think it's right to dismiss the Merlin card because it doesn't have drivers for it yet. Not even Microsoft is plugging Vista 64 at this stage, so I don't see any point in being a hardliner over it.

Otherwise you end up sounding like a FOSS troll who refuses to touch anything that doesn't run on a certain Linux distro or contains a firmware BLOB with proprietary code (just as an example).


Fair enough comments, and I agree entirely. I am probably the only person I know around my inner geek circle (including the coffee group and user groups), running Windows Vista 64 bit. And so far almost all devices I use have 64 bit signed drivers, including a very old Epson C45 inkjet printer, but excluding the Disc Stakka, and Windows Mobile devices (I can't use them as a modem via USB because of lack of drivers).

The reason why I am on top of Novatel though is because they have a support option on their website, where one can log a question, and wait for a reply. Guess what? Novatel support is crap, and after two weeks I didn't get a reply to my question. Then I updated the question with a follow up and after four weeks I still didn't had a reply.

I know they got the questions because I received an e-mail with a case number, and if I click the link it's visible with all dates and times. Why their support people (are there any?) won't reply to a question is simply beyond me.

Not it's not like I am asking something out of the blue. In fact I do have a Merlin XU870 card here, so I am asking a legitimate question.

So, yes, I am not giving it a hard time because of not having drivers, but because they have sub-standard support services.





Telecom New Zealand backpedals and remove un-capped broadband plan Go Large

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 22-Feb-2007 09:57

Well, after months of complaints from people who couldn't even consistently browse websites or download e-mails, Telecom New Zealand has removed their Go Large plan.

The Go Large plan was supposed to be a non-cap, max speed DSL plan, with managed bandwidth.

Managed bandwidth, you ask? What is this? Well, when the plan started Telecom New Zealand told everyone that all P2P (peer-to-peer), NNTP (usenet newsgroups) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol) traffic would be "managed", that is throttled so that the bandwidth consumption wouldn't affect users in other (capped) plans, or even web browsing and e-mail traffic.

Now Telecom cancelled the plan and wrote this on their web site:

An error on our part has meant that since 8 December the process to manage traffic on the GO LARGE plan has been different to what was originally intended and communicated to customers. This may have affected the experience some customers had on this plan.

We are currently communicating this message via email or letter to customers who have been on the GO LARGE Plan between 8 December 2006 and the end of February 2007.

As acknowledgement of this error we will be crediting customers for the monthly GO LARGE plan charges for the applicable time they have been on this service between 8 December 2006 and the end of February 2007.



Wow! Look at the revised Traffic Management:


What type of Internet usage is likely to be affected by traffic management on the Go Large plan?
All of your traffic including web surfing, email, downloading, streaming, file sharing or gaming will be managed. This is to try to ensure our network performs as effectively and efficiently as possible for the majority of our customers.

When does traffic management apply on the Go Large plan?
Traffic management will be applied to the Go Large plan 24 hours a day. It will be more noticeable during times of network congestion or at peak times when it is applied more vigorously. Generally, peak times are likely to occur between 4pm and midnight each day.

Although traffic management is an effective way of managing congestion, it won't remove it from our network or the internet entirely. During busy periods, there are still heaps of people surfing the web, downloading and emailing, so you are still likely to see some reduced speeds at these times.



In other words, from at least early December Telecom had problems and couldn't make the difference between web browsing, gaming or P2P traffic, affecting the experience for everyone on its Go Large plan.

All while their CSRs kept saying "there's nothing wrong" to irate customers who could barely use the service.

For some time, the advice in our Geekzone forums to users on Go Large was to either change plans or change ISP. This was the most viable alternative and always gave good results. Shame Telecom couldn't see under their noses.

What a fiasco Telecom New Zealand. Who's at fault? Management, Call Centre or your network engineers?






Vodafone NZ 3G, broadband and Auckland traffic

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 21-Feb-2007 09:01

I am waiting for the boarding call for my flight to Wellington. I had to catch a cab ride from Auckland CBD to the aiport two hours ahead of the time, just to be sure I'd be here on time for check-in.

It looks like the Auckland Traffic Engineering team forgot all about synchronising traffic lights, or traffic lights at all. Lots of roundabouts here, with traffic coming from opposite directions, with one flow crossing the path of the incoming commuter flow, meaning no give away is possible and meaning the traffic just won't flow. At least 30 minutes wait to go through one roundbout. Ridiculous.

Then I tried to access the Internet at the Auckland airport. Crap service. No wi-fi facilities. But talking about "service", let's try connecting with Vodafone New Zealand's 3G network... Almost no go!

A picture tells a thousand words. Just check the horrible service you get from Vodafone 3G in the airport. An airport, with thousands of people coming and going, business deals waiting to happen, blog posts waiting to happen:





Do as I say: MPAA violates software license

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 18-Feb-2007 11:12

Found this through Digg (go on, if you have a Digg account, digg it too):


The author of ForestBlog, a blogging tool, has discovered that the MPAA was using his code in violation of his license. He gives the code away for free, but requires that users link back to his site and keep his name on the software. The MPAA deleted all credits and copyright notices from his work, and used it without permission. They ripped him off:


Way back in October last year whilst going through the website referals list for another of my sites I stumbled across this link. That's right, my blogging software is being used by the MPAA (Motion picture Association of America); probably one of the most hated organisations known to the internet. Cool, I thought, until I had a look around and saw that all of the back links to my main site had been removed with nary a mention in the source code!
Now, as Patrick Robin (the software author) notes, this probably wasn't the outcome of a high-level board meeting wherein the executive committee decided to rip him off. It was more likely the work of a lazy Web person at the MPAA who was cutting corners at work.


But the MPAA believes that employers should be held responsible for employees' copyright infringements. They want you to know that if you download movies at work, your employer will also be named in the suit. Infringe as we say, not as we do.



Read the complete entry on Boing Boing.

Incredible, isn't it. The all powerfull MPAA, which protect the movie industry "rights".

That's why I think our lawmakers shouldn't be influenced by foreigner lobby groups on these matters. They never seem to have the citizens' interests at heart. I agree on fair copyright laws, but some of the draconian attitudes and hostile acts against consumers, reported on everyday media just don't seem increase the content producer's share in the cake, and doesn't seem to protect the legitimate consumer who purchase over priced CDs and DVDs due to distribution costs.

Isn't it time for the recording and movie industries to find another way to distribute their products? What about a fair use license, with no crippling DRM, at good prices? I am probably one of the few people I know who actually buy DVDs to keep and play again and again at home. I wouldn't mind buying digital media over the internet for playback on my digital system - if the price was right and fair use licenses applied.








Yahoo!Xtra

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 16-Feb-2007 21:22

This is a sneak peek on Yahoo!Xtra, launching 1st March 2007, when Telecom New Zealand's Xtra will part ways with Microsoft's MSN:


Reading the page is an interesting exercise. I wonder how many users connected to Xtra will realise they don't have to adopt Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, and they can keep using Hotmail and Windows Messenger. Or is Xtra going to "recommend" people to change over?

Also it's not like people couldn't use Yahoo! Mail before if they wanted to. So really it's not "good things happen when Xtra meets Yahoo!" by any stretch of imagination (except for the marketing folks at both companies I guess).

What is Microsoft doing after 1st March? It is still a mystery, nothing announced yet. And we are only two weeks away from the changeover date.

What's going to be interesting is to keep an eye on Xtra's rankings. Currently XtraMSN ranks high in New Zealand, but I bet it's because XtraMSN is the default page for Internet Explorer for all machines with locale=NZ. I wonder what's the default page going to be after 1st March, since that is a redirect within Microsoft's domain. Or is there another contract just for the homepage?

Another things is the "priority change". Until now the portal was "XtraMSN", but from 1st March it is going to be "Yahoo!Xtra". Is just because it sounds better, or is the name showing who's the boss?









IMPORTANT: Update your calendar software

By Mauricio Freitas, in , posted: 15-Feb-2007 11:23

Note the U.S. Daylight Saving Time is different this year! This is because of the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

Why is this so important to be posted here? I am sure a lot of Geekzone readers and people reading my little blog here live in the U.S. If you do not live in the U.S. but have plans to travel to the U.S. soon this is also applicable. If you create an appointment using a timezone in the U.S. and it falls during their DST then you might have problems.
 
If you rely on your PDA, smartphone, or any other computer for managing your time, be aware that those devices may not have the correct DST information, and all your appointments in the US during a certain period in March 2007 will be shifted by one hour.

You must update your devices with new information. Companies have developed patches for this.

If you use a Windows Mobile device, or Microsoft Outlook, or have an Exchange Server on your company look for more information and read this article. If you or your company runs Microsoft Exchange Servers there is an automatic update for that. There's an automatic update for Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. The article has links to a patch for Windows Mobile Pocket PC and Windows Mobile Smartphones.

Every step on that article is important.

You don't want to miss your flight, or that important meeting, right? So go and nag your IT department until they apply this patch to their servers, and you have the Outlook and Windows Mobile patch applied. This has to be done everywhere in the world, because if you take your laptop on a trip to the U.S. and change the timezone, the appointment times will be wrong! Same for your mobile device.

I am not sure about patches for Palm OS, Symbian OS, or Apple Mac OS. But they all are bound to have this problem, since the law is just a couple of years old. Check with their support.

For correct DST dates in the U.S. check this article.

Have I strresed this enough now? Go and update.






freitasm's profile

Mauricio Freitas
Wellington
New Zealand


I live in New Zealand and my interests include mobile devices, good books, movies and food of course! 

I'm the Geekzone admin. On Geekzone we publish news, reviews and articles on technology topics. The site also has some busy forums. Also worth visiting is TravelTalk NZ, a community for travelers!

Subscribe now to my blog RSS feed or the Geekzone RSS feed.

If you want to contact me, please use this page or email me freitasm@geekzone.co.nz. Note this email is not for technical support. I don't give technical support. You can use our Geekzone Forums for community discussions on technical issues.

Here's is my full disclosure post.

A couple of blog posts you should read:

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